Calcasieu making progress on Rita recovery

By Theresa Schmidt - bio | email

LAKE CHARLES, LA (KPLC) -While Rita dealt a more devastating blow to Cameron parish, the storm still caused tremendous property damage in Calcasieu Parish.  But more and more people can finally put it behind them.

In many areas of Calcasieu Parish Hurricane Rita left massive destruction. It took help from the federal government, coordinating with local leaders, to dig out from under the mess and begin what would be a long and difficult road to recovery. And it was harder for some than others.

Rita caused tremendous damage to homes in one residential area off Sallier in Lake Charles.  The Barbe Street area had been a beautifully wooded place and residents like Amelia Buller mourned the loss of their trees in those first days after the storm.  "Beautiful trees, lots of trees and they're all gone. Most of them are all gone. There was always shade in the neighborhood . No more shade at all."

Bullers' house was destroyed by Rita, but they were determined to build back and stay right where they had been. Said Ben Buller, "My wife asked, she said, 'What are we going to do?' I said, 'We're not going anywhere.' I mean, it's a great neighborhood."

Buller feels confident they've built stronger and need not feel vulnerable to storms ahead. "I'm here for the long haul."

When Ike came along there were setbacks for some in recovery and first time flooding for others. But there is great loyalty and solidarity and while some have left, others stay and continue to rebuild. "Homes that were tore down, their elevation is, the ones that can build up elevation they do."

So while they'll surely talk about Rita for years to come they'll also remember her as the storm that revealed strength and courage many didn't know they had. Buller says, "Especially in this corner of the state I would have to say we have a never die attitude."

At the height of the housing crisis from hurricanes Rita and Katrina there were an estimated 6,400 housing units in Calcasieu. Officials say as of September 9th Calcasieu still had 177 housing units left, plus 37 for Gustav and Ike.

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